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Life Arts    H3'ed 2/28/09

Sickness, Inc.

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Message Debbie Scally
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Early in the morning on Nov. 4, my mother had a major stroke.  She was home with my dad, who has had Parkinson’s for twenty years.  She had always been his sole caretaker, not wanting anyone else to come into their home to do the job.  My mother is eighty.  She could have mentored the Energizer bunny on how to do his job; she just kept going.  She seemed indestructible. 


She lay on the floor beside the bed all day before my sister found her.  My dad was wandering around the house, having had no food, water or meds all day.  He thought my mom was shopping with my sister since he didn’t see her when he got up.  Most of the time, he is lucid, but after a day without eating or following his strict medical regimen, he was loopy. 


I found out that evening.  I was watching election returns when I got the call.  I was really excited because it looked for sure like Obama was the winner.  When I hung up from that call I was in a surreal state.  The next morning I cancelled my classes, loaded up the kid and headed the hundred miles or so to my parents’ home. 


The news was grim, but not hopeless, but the main thing my sibs and I had to do was to take care of Dad while Mom was in the hospital for rehab.  This was when the other shoe fell.  None of us had realized what “taking care of Dad” entailed.  To this day, I don’t see how my mom did it for so long.  At any rate, we decided to get home care.  My dad’s a veteran, owns his home, and has perfect credit.  But, no matter how we sliced and diced it, neither he nor any of us could afford home care, and he needed 24/7. 


After Mom’s stroke, he sank into a deep depression and was really backsliding, so we decided to find a nursing home/rehab center where they could stay together while Mom recovered.  The hospital won’t keep a rehab patient on Medicare after a certain number of days.  We found a place, and it became hell on a daily basis trying to get the staff to actually take care of my parents.  This place had a good reputation, but their performance was really below substandard.  Both mom and dad had to go back and forth to the hospital for various reasons while they were there.  And the only reason they weren’t left alone all day was because I come from a big family and we had someone there every single day bitching about their care – or lack thereof. 


Then Mom had another stroke.  Then we moved them to a new place, but Mom had also picked up a nasty staph infection in the other center.  Now she is in an isolation room, in the hospital, hooked up to wires and a feeding tube because she completely lost her appetite from the medications.  Dad is in a locked ward in the nursing home, because he likes to walk at night, and the nurses didn’t notice him going out the door until he knocked to get back in. 


Thus, the medical establishment has now taken over my parents’ lives.  They are at the mercy of the hospital, the nursing home, the doctors, nurses and aides.  They no longer have any independence, and, though neither suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, no one listens to what they want.  They have a vacant, paid-for house that will probably have to be sold.  They live in a place that is cut off generationally from the rest of the world.  Their worth is now nothing because they are old and ill.  And they are lucky enough to have visitors every day.  From what I can see, we toss our older generations into the trash.  So many of those very nice folks never have any visitors at all; we’ve gotten to know quite a few of them since our parents arrived.  It’s very sad.


But the real sad thing is that so many of the rich jerks and jerkettes in this country in our government and in our corporations, do not give a damn.  If you are poor, or even almost middle-class, it’s your own fault if you get sick and have to donate your body to the medical establishment before you’re dead.  God forbid the government should pay for insurance.  And insurance companies are so panicked now that they are raising their deductibles and their premiums. But, y’know, this wouldn’t have happened if my folks lived in France or England or any country that has nationalized health insurance.  I watch them deteriorate for no other reason than that they are in the hospital; can’t get rest and heal; are being fed drugs constantly; and are no longer treated like adults, but like infants.  I wish so much that they could just go back to their home. 


I was thinking the other day that this was just like some of the things I saw in Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko” and saying, “Wow.  It’s a good thing that won’t happen to my family.”  And then it did. 

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I'm a college English teacher working on my dissertation. I am an anime junkie and a Shakespeare scholar, a voracious reader and a political rebel.
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